Monday, 12 March 2012

Silly Walks

Why are silly walks so funny? Perhaps because it is so simple. When done properly it just simply is funny, in a "Funny Bones" kind of way.
They say a joke is funny but once but a poke in the eye with a wet sausage is always funny. I take that to mean physical comedy is funny in a similar persistent way a visual illusion persists to confuse your senses every time you see it, even when you know whats going on it keeps being an illusion.

Walking is so familiar, we all know how it is supposed to look. If done cleverly complex yet silly and ongoing it can't not be funny and strangely impressive.
Yet at the same time lurks something dark. Hidden in peculiar perambulation patterns sometimes madness lurks. There is ways of diagnosing neurological disorders by gait. As I was researching the funny side of silly walks I stumbled onto a few. It was not funny. It was sad. It is a fine line to stride along with silly walks.
No doubt that is part of its strange attractions. Silly walking is powerful stuff.

"John Cleese, throughout the sketch, walks in a variety of silly ways (including one that briefly imitates the scissor gait of spastic diplegia), and it is these various silly walks, more than the dialogue, that has earned the sketch its popularity."

I would say even John Cleese was struck by its power. Such a silly sketch became the thing which in many ways defined him.

"In the book The Pythons, members of the troupe indicated that they considered the whole scene nothing more than pure silliness. Cleese in particular seems disheartened that so many fans consider it the troupe's "best" sketch."

Eitherway as the silly walk entrepreneurs Monty Python said so well - Now for something completely different. (But not really, just more of the same.)

The Ministry of Silly Walks, by Monty Python.

Little Tich you might have noticed Michael Palin dressed up as Little Tich in the "historical" footage of silly walks through the ages. (It will reappear in the Live at the Hollywood Bowl clip as well.)

Dean Martins Uncle Leonard Barr does a walk on...

Leonard Barr stand-up comedy. This clip is a mash up. It has a few of Uncle Leonard's sweet moves, dancing and walking eccentric as all that. It also has a talk track of him delivering some real vaudeville comedy gems. It's a little tricky at first but they are both quite something if you persist.

"Cleese has cited the physical comedy of Max Wall, probably in character as Professor Wallofski, as important to its conception." 
 Wikipedia on Ministry of Silly Walks

Max Wall (remixed)

Strictly this is more dancing than walking but it is so fantastically unbelievable that who's gonna get stuck on semantics? Awesome is awesome. Ladies and Gentlemen Al "Rubber Legs" Norman.

The Python's walking silly at the Hollywood Bowl.

From the Independent, 29th of July, 2009.

Mystery solved – by Ministry of Silly Walks

Scientists' experiments with volunteers help prove why we swing our arms

"The mystery of why people swing their arms while walking rather than holding them still and rigid like the famous silly walk of John Cleese in his Monty Python sketch appears to have been solved. An experiment involving making a group of volunteers take equally silly walks in a laboratory setting has confirmed that arm swinging makes walking more efficient and easier.
Although it may seem obvious why people swing each of their arms in opposition to their legs, scientists have puzzled over the practice for many decades because it seemed to serve no mechanical function given that the arms do not touch the ground.
One extreme theory even proposed that arm swinging while walking was hard-wired into the human nervous system and served no modern purpose because it was a vestigial relic left over from when our animal ancestors walked on all fours."

For the full article click here.

1 comment:

  1. Comedy gives us a surprise, which has to have an emotional component. Some of the most basic things that we have as human beings are our motor patterns, and many forms of humour tap into our motor patterns as the basis of their funny effect. In fact, I suspect that ALL humor is really motor based. Well, maybe purely intellectual jokes are not, but once you know the punchline, they lose their humour (and maybe they werent very funny in the first place??). On the other hand, ones based on motor patterns, which are more resistant to change, keep going. It seems to me, for a clown, everything flows from getting access to and then subverting our inbuilt motor patterns. Jim.